We’re just back from a couple of weeks in the UK, hence the late posting. We packed so much into October it’s going to be tough recalling it all…
From the store:
- Peppers – the long, think pale green ones popular locally
- Rastan – strong, dark greens
From the garden:
- Lots of green leaves – rocket is flourishing again after a little rain
- Tomatoes – the kilos keep coming
- Runner Beans
Another melon ripened and was devoured – delicious with the local proscuitto.
Sowing & Planting
We’re into harvesting & clearing now ready for the winter wind-down.
Baking & Making
Having picked kilos of wild rosehips during our road trip to Northern Montenegro (more of that later), Steve prepared his delicious Rosehip & Apple Jelly again. I know, the health & safety implications of his nose being that close to the knife are numerous & scary, but here’s the picture anyway…
The rosehips cooking in a pot looked remarkably like the tomato sauce I made with the glut of fruit from the garden. It would be a sour hour to mix those 2 up!
Amanda Smyth’s “Black Rock” was compelling and readable and particularly impressive for a first novel. Her stroke of genius was putting the story in Celia’s hands – her narration is simply put but engaging and all the more dramatic somehow for the understated style of a young Trinadadian woman who simply has life to bear. The richness of the culture she grows up in is cleverly soaked into everything so that it’s only towards the end of the book that you realise how much you’ve learned that was previously unknown.
The straight-forward telling of a story belies a heart-tugging tale. Something about the ordinariness of it, the fact that you believe it could so easily be true, is what’s most impactful. It made me wince and sigh and feel sad. Hardly surprising, when I tell you the culprit is love: the central theme of love in its many forms – familial love, unrequited love, inappropriate love, misplaced love and love that didn’t quite hit the mark and then, frustratingly, never had a chance to… There’s a good twist at the end and the right balance of baddies getting their just desserts and goodies suffering needlessly. Bravo Ms Smyth!
John Irving’s “The Fourth Hand” was nowhere near as satisfying. Irving is a fave author of book-worm buddy Fi, so she is bound to share her passion. I thought I fell for him when I saw the film “The World According to Garp” as a young woman. For some reason this film had a profound effect on me – it’s one of the films I remember clearly from my youth (and we’re talking 20+ years ago goddamit!) and was impressed by how different it was to any other movies I’d seen. Since I usually read a book first and then am disappointed by the film, I grew up believing that if the film was that good, the book must be phenomenal and Irving must be a First-Class writer.
To be honest, I stumbled at the very first sentence in “The Fourth Hand”. I’ve given the book back to Fi now so I can’t share it but for an opening line of a novel I thought it was very difficult to read. It just didn’t flow right and I re-read it about 3-4 times. Somehow this really spoilt what came after for me – silly maybe, but true nonetheless. The concept of the book is quite quirky and I like the way he’s thinking but the delivery of the idea just didn’t knock my socks off – it might have tugged at them a bit in places. It’s a measure of how fast I’ve let this one go, that I can’t recall the names of any of the key characters. Sorry – what a limited review!
The other book lent to me by Fi this month, Yvvette Edward’s “A Cupboard Full Of Coats” was an easy read and enjoyable. It keeps you guessing by introducing the dramatic highlights and then taking the tale right back to the beginning. It’s not an especially complex or sophisticated tale but a satisfying read nonetheless – I think the cover rather over-eggs the pudding and we could have done without that. The pleasure in this book is not so much in the story (which frankly isn’t as suspense-full or dramatic as cover notes would lead us to believe) as in the characters. Lemon is my favourite dude – the passages in the book that describe him cooking and him & Jinx eating are my favourite. Palpably delicious.
I personally felt that the character of Jinx’s son and the relationship between mother & child was under-developed and the relationship of Jinx to her bezzie mate a bit of distraction but I’m probably just being picky. Another first novel and another impressive debut.
Herman Hesse’s “The Bead Game” has been sat on the shelf for many months, beckoning me with it’s brightly coloured cover and the promise of a masterpiece. I decided it was too big to take travelling with me so it was started & left behind. To be continued…?
What’s the vibe?
Post-season madness, in a good way.
This was not a time for sitting still & being quiet. We had a bout of pre-hibernation mania and the diversity of experiences (people, places, activities & even weather) we enjoyed made us fairly glow with alive-ness. From spending intense time alone as a couple, to re-connecting with dear friends locally (once we felt able to cope with being sociable again!), to taking off up North in a borrowed Landrover Defender and driving & walking through jaw-droppingly gorgeous scenery, to snuggling up in a toasty warm mountain home, to embracing England in the autumn and especially our loved ones within it – from snow to sunshine to crispy leaves – we revelled in it all.
Shrugging off the mantle of campsite host was a wonderful feeling – free to be fully immersed in the roles of wife, lover, friend, daughter, sister – & even professional consultant for a day.
Lots of fun stuff whilst in the mountains with Katie & Tim, including retro (Duran Duran-ish, even!) and some wicked Roma music that I must seek out. At Mill House Farm in Stoke Mandeville we listened to John’s playlist on Spotify – a nice jazzy, world music vibe but occasionally bordering on the dirgey when too many Muse tracks turned up.
Apart from experiencing pepper-envy (check out the gorgeous red, shiny capsicums Fiona grew that Dave expertly bbq-ed…) it was wonderful to spend an evening with kindred spirits & good buddies Fiona & Dave.
Carrie took us there & enjoyed the evening with us. Here she is giggling her head off with Fi:
From the short-sleeves and the sunbeams in the shot above you can clearly see how gorgeous the early October days were here in the Boka. In complete contrast, here is the scene when we ventured North to the National Parks of Biogradska Gora and Durmitor, just in time for a freakishly early cold snap:
Plans of camping disappeared into the snow & fog. We re-dubbed the adventure a ‘Road Trip’ and after one night sleeping in the back of Carrie’s Defender (possibly the worst night’s sleep ever!) we headed for the warmth & comfort of a mountain chalet owned by friends Michelle & David, where Katie & Tim were hanging out. Daisy was delighted to have Mollie & Louis to hang out with and we all 7 had some great walks together around Zabljak:
The Landrover was the perfect vehicle for the weather & the terrain – thanks be to Carrie for letting us use it.
We had some great evenings around the fire, eating yummy food, drinking nice wine and playing games. We are excited to have 2 new potential Bridge parters in the Boka after teaching Katie & Tim to play.
After 3 days in Zabljak with the Monty B crew, it was time to move on. They were very generous in sharing the space that they had bagsied for a nice week away on their own & we were in danger of over-staying our welcome. The day for our onward journey was bright & clear. Overnight the snow had disappeared. The mountains, towering unseen in the white/ grey haze of cloud, mist & snow for the past few days, were back in full view… and glorious. The route we took home was stunning:
On our return to the Boka, we were relieved to find temperatures still in the 20’s and enjoyed a last few sunny days pottering around on the campsite and preparing to leave for the UK.
The story of our UK trip straddles October & November so there’s more to come next month but the fun stuff at the end of this month included:
A welcome return to Mill House Farm where the hugs & the hearth are always warm; where the love & care of dear friends cheers us big-time; where the dogs are cute but crazy; where the eggs are fresh (and yours could be too if you live in Aylesbury, High Wycombe or Milton Keynes – check out this website NOW!) and where the cheese & wine are always plentiful. We overdosed on fun & high spirits (namely Port, Tequila & Viljamovka) in our epic Blue Margherita & Scrabble evening:
When we weren’t drinking & eating, nursing hangovers or getting consumed by the launch of the new Rent-a Hen website, we were cleaning & mending our caravan. Hover over the photos for the story behind each one:
After a week of relaxing on the farm it was time to get on the move. I had great fun playing ‘grown ups’ with Carrie for a day. I observed a workshop she was running with a view to helping her team facilitate a bunch of them next year. It was refreshing to get on the Consultant game again.
We had scored a car for a week thanks to our buddy Matt, aka Heap Big Financial Chief at a taxi firm, who swung it for us to use one of the ex-cabs about to be de-comissioned. We simply couldn’t have caught up with everyone we did without it. It was a great result.
Steve came to pick me up from ‘work’ & on Friday night we ended up in Northampton sharing a lovely evening with dear friends Mick & Jan. And as a Barry Bonus, their youngest daughter Helen was up from London for the night, so we caught up with her too. Good food, good wine, outstanding Port but most of all great company. And next day Maura & Adrian popped in to say hi too:
From Northampton we drove North West and made it to Liverpool & Jess & Nick’s new home without much drama. This was an emotional homecoming. The last time we’d all seen each other was at Sue’s funeral over 3½ years ago. So much had happened since as we all tried to rebuild our lives without that special person – not least this:
It was freaky, but fantastic to see the pregnant Jess and we are so delighted for them both. It was wonderful to stay in their beautiful house, which they have clearly worked so hard at turning into a home. Of course there were reminders of Sue everywhere – the leather chairs, the wall hangings, the shells in the bathroom and some tasteful bits of furniture. But Jess & Nick had made their own special memories since and there were plenty of pictures of their travels. Finally, we got to hear the whole tale of their amazing round the world trip. We made them start at the beginning & end at the end and show us all the photos & videos too. It was awesome! Jess & I had our usual fun dyeing my hair funny colours. Here’s Nick wearing the streaking cap:
I feel like there is a big session waiting to happen where Jess & I get trollied and go emotional & messy together – but this wasn’t the time, espcially with her precious bundle to nurture & protect. We all did very well at staying cool & I only burst into tears at the very end as we wrenched ourselves away…
Nothing moves as slowly as a border policeman here, especially when you’re in a hurry to catch a plane.
One Green Thing
Eating what’s in Nature’s larder… Our meals have revolved around our garden produce – going seasonal & reducing waste.
For most of October it stayed warm, dry & sunny in our part of the Boka. Temperatures were still in the mid 20’s for most of the time, although apparently whislt we were away in the mountains, folks in Herceg Novi experienced a drop in temperature too, but it didn’t last. And it still didn’t rain.
Until the last couple of days before we left for the UK when it rained & stormed like hell.
It was a weird experience to leave Monte in terrible weather and arrive in the UK to warm, autumnal weather – the skies clear & bright blue.